“Chores” was my mum’s favourite word. I hated it. “Right, time to do your chores” she’d proclaim. I’d sigh. My sister would jump to it. She was the favourite. I caused all the trouble. I didn’t do my chores. We’d co-work on the washing up and argue about who was drying. Washing was easier; you had to put stuff away when you dried. I’d always end up throwing soap suds at her. She’d always tell tales. I’d always get in trouble. Every time.
When I finished university, I thought I would walk into a great job with lots of control and responsibility. I started a PhD in Chemistry. One experiment I did required me to stand over a stirring beaker and add an innocuous looking liquid, drop-wise, to another liquid, for 8 hours. My arm ached. I was bored. I got black marker on my face from leaning on the glass where someone had written. Surely there must be a machine that could do this? There was, but the lab didn’t have one. I said to the supervisor “We should go out onto the street and grab any old idiot to do this,”
“We did, you’re the idiot” he said.
Go figure. I have a First Class Degree dontchya know. I’m clever. Not in his world. I was bottom of the food chain and had to earn my stripes.
When I was 14, I got selected to play cricket for the first team at my cricket club. I was a good player. I batted and bowled the most in junior and 2nd team cricket. First team would be the same, surely? I batted last and stood around fielding, and not even in the good positions. I fielded in the places the ball didn’t go. When it did come to me, I fumbled it because I was sulking. The others would shout and complain, “Concentrate!” they’d say. No, jog on, if I’m not batting or bowling, I’m not interested. I’d go home and sulk. I wanted to move clubs. My dad told me that this was a rite of passage. I had to earn my stripes and deserve the right to bat high up and bowl. I didn’t like that. My mum understood, so I complained to her. She sympathised. She never played sport, though. She wanted me to move clubs. I never did. Dad knew what he was talking about.
At school, we are sold the dream. If we get good grades, we walk into a great job. We are told that a great job is “doing what we’re passionate about”. We know the stories about people who move abroad and earn a nice living whilst sipping cocktails on the beach. We know working for someone else is soul-less and demoralising. We deserve better. We resent it when we are in a mindless job that pays pittance and perceive it to be below our station.
Impatience to succeed causes upset. We don’t deserve anything in life. We are subject to the laws of nature. In nature, organisms either contribute or die. The dodo gave nothing. It’s now extinct. If you give nothing, nature forces to contribute by becoming food. Others eat you. You provide energy to organisms that do contribute.
Every student going into the world of work should carry this mentality. If you don’t contribute, you’ll be eaten. Do your chores. Contribute what you can. Become the best cup of tea maker in the whole company. Devise the best system for filing papers. Learn to sell. Pick up the phone and talk to customers. Make more calls than anyone else. Offer the best customer service. Do the grunt work. Clean up the office. Get in the earliest.
Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the USA, championed the idea of diligence. He forced himself to be busy. Even if that busy-ness involved menial tasks. He wanted to show others he was industrious and tenacious. He forced the work. He became more skilful, and then more successful. His success came through substance and hard work.
When you go into your first job, you are on the bottom rung. You are treading a well worn path towards success. Enjoy the journey. Add value to people. Even if that’s only small. Increase your worth over time. Get really good at your chosen job path. People will value your tenacity. Then opportunity will knock, and you’ll be ready to pounce.
Be prepared to do your chores. Others won’t. Others will moan. Don’t. Be patient and trust that, by doing the right things, day in and day out, you’ll get there in the end.